Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tam Lin

The power of myth and fairy tales in our culture is pretty apparent. Myth and fairy tales are not real, of course, and have subtle (or not so subtle) narratives about how we should act. It's important to recognize just what place the myth should have in our life. Just as the princess in the tower doesn't exist, neither does the knight on a white horse or happily ever after. Now, I am someone who appreciates escapist literature as much as the next person - it just has to be tempered with reality.

One of the fairy tales I've been thinking about recently is Tam Lin. There's a synopsis here . The heroine (hero) is tasked with saving her love from being taken away forever by the fairies. (These fairies are tricky, they are not the disney version). He tells her how to tell him when he passes, and that the fairies will try to turn him into all manner of animals to force her to let him go. If she holds on to him, no matter what he turns into, he'll be able to go free.

What's interesting about this to me personally, is that I feel in our culture we have so much that we are encouraged to hold onto, no matter what. Yet we are also given mixed messages, because just as we're supposed to hold on as tightly as we can, there are some things convential wisdom tells us to let go of. Addicts, for example. It puts us in a bind. As family, friends, spouses and children - we're supposed to hold on no matter what. And we're promised that in the end, the person will be okay, they will be themselves and they will be "ours".

On the flip side, there are many societal lines. We're supposed to leave addicts and alcoholics. Those who treat us badly. A person is told "why would you put up with that?" And why would a person put themselves through h*ll?

I submit that through fairy tales like Tam Lin, that's exactly what society is telling our children to do.

I am working, consciously, on letting go. Of a lot of things, not just relationships in my life. Not necessarily letting go of the relationships, but letting go of my attitudes towards them. It's complicated to explain. I have my power in relationships, and others also have power.

Letting go of my expectations, and putting my energy into things I can actually change. Remembering that I'm only one person, and have responsibilities to myself and others. Again - this is not something that we're told.

There is no fairy tale about a woman who decides to let her love go to the fairies rather than hold on and lose herself.


Anonymous said...

This is an interesting issue you raised. I'm not familiar with the fairy tale, but my reaction to the story was to wonder what it would mean to "hold onto" someone. One of the hallmarks of codependency is black and white thinking, so I'll attempt, for a moment, to stretch beyond that tendency in myself and say that there are different ways of holding on and letting go, and that part of recovery is finding out what those options are. Most of us tend to hold on pretty tightly when we hold on. But I also think it's entirely possible to hold onto loving someone and still do what needs to be done in order to preserve oneself, which sometimes means leaving, or at the very least, taking a few steps back. In other words, one can let go on one level and hold on on another. Not that I manage that most of the time; it's still far easier for me to be wholly there or not there at all. But I do think grey area is there, at least theoretically.

Aerin said...

Thanks NN. I think that the issue of holding on is exactly what I'm talking about - and something to ponder. In the myth, of course, it's simple - holding on means to hug someone/thing changing rapidly into various animals, some rather dangerous.

I agree that it is entirely possible to hold onto loving someone and still do what you need to do for yourself (I think you know that I agreed already).

I'm thinking of the detach with love concept, which is what you're describing - I guess what I was saying is that I don't hear a lot about that in the popular media. It is always black and white - there isn't much support or understanding for the nuances and complexities of relationships.

We're given so much more encouragement to judge from the outside than actually live through what's going for yourself (focusing on how you feel personally, with some input and understanding from others).

In other words, letting people solve their own problems (which can be very hard for someone like me) and letting other people accept their own consequences. Just as I have to accept my consequences.

laura said...

That's fascinating, and a take I'd never thought of on that tale, which is generally one of my favorites.

Much to ponder!

Jennifer said...

I'm most definitely a holder. I hold on and hold on and hold on some more, even when it probably would have been better, and most definitely healthier, to let go.

I'm changing now and have been for awhile, but it's hard to fight that part of me.

My mom was an addict. She was addicted to buying crap. Seriously. My dad was a codep. In fact, I would venture to say he is more codep than I am, which floors me now that I can see it. He was so proud he had "hidden" so much from us kids... and yet, he wonders why we all married into such dysfunctional families.


There is a way to detach and yet remain in a relationship, but I agree with NN, it's easier for me to be all there or all gone. It takes too much work to be worth it yet to do it any other way.